Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

IMG_5005-cropIf you’re like me, you’ve been saddened and horrified at the crisis in Attawapiskat, Ontario. The thought of these young people with so little hope for the future, that children as young as ten years old would contemplate suicide, is a terrible one.

And if you’re like me, you feel helpless to do anything about it. Most of the problems in the country–in the world–are too big, too overwhelming for individuals to contemplate. No-one can help everyone. We can donate our time and money to organizations who might provide assistance, but beyond that, it’s hard to imagine being able to do anything on a personal level.

However, the youth in this isolated community have identified some things that they feel would help their situation. And one of those things is a library.

As a writer, I know the power of a library to change lives; when I was young, our local library was one of my favorite places, and I know that I have become who I am today partly because of those books. They took me places and showed me things that helped to shape my life. I think that all children should have the opportunities that libraries offer: to read, discover, learn, escape, and imagine. I’ve been a library volunteer at a local elementary school for over ten years, and stayed on long after my own children were gone from the school, partly because of that belief.

And now, instead of simply reading stories, I tell them, too. So today I acted on an idea that popped into my head a couple of days ago. I packed up a few of my titles and mailed them to the Attawapiskat First Nation. I told them, in my letter, that I hoped the books might form part of the library they want to build.

It’s a small thing. But even though, as I said above, no-one can help everyone, we can each help someone. And so I’m challenging other Canadian writers to do the same as I’ve done. I’m sure that many of us (probably most) have extra copies of our own books, ARCs, or promotional copies filling shelves, filing cabinets, or boxes. Imagine if we all picked out something appropriate and sent it off with a word of encouragement.

The power of books. The power of libraries. The power of writers.

Imagine.

The address is: Youth in Attawapiskat, P.O. Box 248, Attawapiskat, Ontario, P0L 1A0

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

 

unique-sheep-1-1286671-m

They’re definitely plotting something…

I’ve belonged to writer’s groups–in real life and online–for many years and in many different formats. Face to face meetings, message boards, email lists and Second Life; I’ve reaped many benefits from those interactions. Here’s why you should consider becoming part of a group:

1. Company. Writing is (in most cases) a solitary endeavour. It’s you and your writing implement of choice, and a whole lot of imaginary folks with whom you do interact, but in a wholly different way. Sometimes it’s nice to share some aspects of your writing life with others who understand, just so you don’t get lonely.

2. Information. No one can find every good book on writing, every great article on the internet, or every helpful resource on their own. Writing pals are great for passing along information that’s helped them, and might help you, too.

3. Curing Self-Doubt. Almost every writer suffers from self-doubt at some point, but connecting with other writers reminds us that we are not alone in these feelings. It’s always heartening to voice a worry and have someone else agree that they’re bothered by that, too, or, better yet, share how they got past it.

4. Critique. Not all writer’s groups swap writing for critique, but it’s a benefit of belonging that far outweighs the time you spend reading others’ work. The better you get at catching and commenting on mistakes made by someone else, the better you get at catching your own–or avoiding them altogether. A group can set guidelines and methodologies that work for all members to make sure the experience is a positive one.

5. Comrades in Arms. The great noveling experiment that is NaNoWriMo attests to the power of attempting something crazy, new, or daunting with others at your side. All the struggling you do to finish that first draft or complete that umpteenth revision is just a little easier when you know that your friend is at his or her desk wrestling the exact same thing.

6. Feedback. Sometimes you don’t need a full critique, you just need to throw out a problem and listen while your writing comrades chew it over. Not sure how to get your hero out of a pickle? With a writer’s group, you can sketch his dilemma and ask for opinions, then sit back and take notes. Chances are the discussion will reveal an answer, or spark a new idea in your own brain.

7. Empowerment. There’s nothing like the power of a group mind to help when poring over the arcane terms of a publishing contract or bolstering you up to make a tough decision like pulling a manuscript out of submission. Again, you’ll make better decisions and rest easier on them when you don’t undertake them alone. Having the insights of others with experience and knowledge helps you see and evaluate all sides of the issue.

8. Fun. Most writing groups are not all business. Other writers appreciate the value of writing for play, so freewriting, prompts, timed challenges, and other ways to play with words are often on offer. Nothing frees the creative mind like play, and it’s that much more fun when it’s shared.

9. Collaboration. Not everyone wants to collaborate with other writers, but there are many kinds of shared projects that can blossom when writing comrades get together. It could be a chapbook of your group’s work, a project you take on with just one other writer, or something completely unique. But it takes those minds meeting up for the idea to be born.

10. Validation. It’s not always easy to stand up and say “I am a writer,” especially if you’re just starting out. Being part of a group of writers who are also just getting their feet under them, or who remember what that was like, makes it easier to think of yourself as a writer. And that makes it easier to make writing a priority in your life. Which is another side benefit. You’re likely to simply write more when you’re regularly meeting with other writers and talking about writing.

11. Opportunities. Besides simply having more information about opportunities coming your way as part of a group, sometimes the group itself engenders opportunities. A member might decide to put together an anthology and offer first submission opportunities to fellow members. Or a member might start a blog or podcast and draw on fellow members as guests or contributors. The possibilities are really endless, but you have to be part of the group, on the spot, to be able to take advantage of them.

Do you belong to a writer’s group, physical or online? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

Photo credit: lvklaveren

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Yes, we’re all getting a bit tired of “best of” lists, I’m sure, but I did want to muse a bit on the best books I read last year. Of those I read, I gave only five the coveted five-star rating. I generally use Goodreads’ criteria for ratings, which are as follows: 1-star: didn’t like it, 2-star: it was okay, 3-star: liked it, 4-star: really liked it, and 5-star: it was amazing.

So to get five stars from me, a book has to be “amazing”, which I interpret as I-loved-it, I-couldn’t-put-it-down, I-wish-I’d-written-this, I-would-hardly-change-a-thing.

Note that I say I would hardly change a thing, not that I wouldn’t change *anything.* Because that would mean the book was perfect, and I think that’s really too high a standard. Is there such a thing as a perfect book? I suppose that would be a good topic for some other days’ musings…

But on to last year’s 5-star reads. In the order I read them, they were:
1. Feed by Mira Grant
2. Blackout by Mira Grant
3. Deadline by Mira Grant
4. Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
5. The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

feedSo yes, three of these books, the ones by Mira Grant, were a trilogy. It’s a pretty good feat to have all three books in a series be equally good, and at first I didn’t think it would be the case. The author did something at the end of the the first book that almost ruined it for me, and I initially gave the book only 4-stars. I had loved it up to that point, but I didn’t think I could forgive the author for something that I did not think was necessary. However, I was so hooked that I had to go on reading, and after the second book, I was moved to go back and revise the first book’s rating up to five stars. These are zombie apocalypse books and not for the faint of heart, but man, they were *good.*

GateAbaddon’s Gate was the third book in a trilogy as well, and I also gave all three of these books five stars, although the first two I read in 2012. Space opera as space opera should be, I believe I said in one of the reviews. I’m not much of one for writing a synopsis of the book in my reviews–as a writer, synopses are painful things, reserved for my own books and only when necessary–so I will just say that the scope of the story was huge and engrossing and warranted the long length of the novels completely. Despite their size I devoured them.

normalsThe last five-star book of the year is bittersweet for me to talk about, because it was such fun to read and I enjoyed it so much…and then had to somehow reconcile those feelings with news of the author’s death in December. I continue to be saddened by the juxtaposition of his writings and the terrible state of mind he must have suffered. So the five stars are a bit tarnished by that sadness, but it was still a wonderful book.

I read sixty-three books in 2013, a feat which was really only made possible by the number of audiobooks I enjoyed, and one which I am not complacently expecting to meet this year. I’ve set my Goodreads challenge for 55 books, and if I surpass that, of course I will be pleased. There were a number of years when I read less because I was writing more, but I’m glad that trend has turned around. Reading helps me, as a writer, “fill up the tank,” and I think it’s one of the single most effective ways a writer can improve his or her own writing.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

the-road-to-your-destiny-by-stealth37-nice-wallpaper-1600x1200In other words, looking back and looking ahead. :)


2013 was a great writing year for me. I started the year by completing revisions on One’s Aspect to the Sun, which then came out from Tyche Books in November. So far it’s been getting wonderful reviews and readers really seem to be enjoying it, which makes me very happy. That was my big news and my big accomplishment, but there were other writing accomplishments, too.


My story, “ePrayer,” came out in Third Person Press’ newest anthology, Grey Area, which also added another notch to my editorial belt. Grey Area was partially funded through our Indiegogo campaign, which was quite an experience in itself–time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately satisfying. Also with Third Person Press, we read submissions and made final decisions for our next anthology, Flashpoint, so we’ll be moving on to line edits for those stories soon.


I finished a short story for submission to another anthology, and that story became the jumping-off point for my NaNoWriMo effort. NNWM was a win, and although that story is far from finished, I’m pleased with it and will continue to work on it.


I also put two other novels into submission, in March. I’m still waiting to hear on those, and, to tell the truth, I’m getting impatient. Having been through the experience of waiting a long time for a publisher and eventually pulling the manuscript, I’ve vowed not to do that again. That’s a blog post all by itself, though, so I’ll talk more about that another day.


I worked on yet another novel manuscript, which is very close to being finished. I had planned a “novel swap” with a writer friend, but it didn’t come to be. I just couldn’t seem to finish the last few chapters in a way that satisfied me. With luck, he’ll still be willing and we’ll get to that this year, once I wrangle those chapters into shape.


I did preliminary revision work on two other unfinished novel manuscripts, and did some background work on Nearspace, the setting for One’s Aspect to the Sun. Yes, there are more stories to be told in that universe. No, I don’t have any details to share with you yet.


All of which is wonderful but…I could do more.


Once upon a time, I used to start more stories than I finished. Over time, I learned that this was, at least in part, due to starting to write too soon. I’d get an idea and start writing before I had let it “simmer” long enough in my brain. I don’t get along well with outlines, but I’ve learned that I do need to be able to see the structure of the story in my head before I start writing that first scene. That scene usually comes to me full-blown, so it’s very, very tempting to just “get it down” quickly. But as I said, I learned not to give in to that temptation, and finished more stories.


However, I find myself in the position of having a lot of unfinished manuscripts on my hard drive again. I’m not sure what the problem is now; partly trying to juggle too many projects, partly spending too much time on “writerly” things that are not actually writing, partly my propensity to procrastinate. (There, I’ve admitted it!) This time they are mostly novels, as opposed to short stories, thanks to NaNoWriMo, but still…they need to be finished. I came close to finishing that one I mentioned earlier, but didn’t quite make it.


Last year I set just one goal for myself for 2013; I would publish a novel. I’ve decided to make 2014 the Year of Finishing. I’m not saying I won’t start anything new this year, of course, but I really like many of these stories that are languishing only partially complete. I want to go back to them, finish writing them, and make them shine.


I also hope to blog more consistently this year. Last night at our New Year’s celebrations I threw two hopes into the resolution box: more consistency and less procrastinating in my writing life overall. With some luck and determination, they should combine to produce more finished manuscripts in the months to come. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens from here.


Photo credit: Stealth37

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

pinterestI know I’m not the first writer to use Pinterest as a visual aid in story-writing, but I was thinking about all the ways it could be used and thought–I may as well think out loud!

I started a Pinterest storyboard for my new novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, during one of its numerous rewrites. If I remember correctly, I was trying to draw my mind back into the world of the novel after being away from it for a while, and I always find visual imagery very creatively stimulating. At first the board was a “secret” one, which is a great Pinterest feature for a board you’re not ready to share with the world yet. I was throwing all kinds of things into the mix to put me back inside the story.

Later, though, I realized that it also makes a good marketing tool. With judicious pinning, a writer can create a board that really reflects the mood, genre, time period, setting, and style of a book or story, as well as elements that play into the plot. Potential readers can get an impression about whether the book might be one they’d enjoy. Images can also pique a reader’s interest…why did the author include *this* particular image? My One’s Aspect to the Sun board is here: http://www.pinterest.com/wordsmith101/storyboard-ones-aspect-to-the-sun/

I’m currently creating a Pinterest storyboard for my current NaNoWriMo novel, which has a working title of B.R.A.N.E., Inc. I’m using this board as a repository for things I might want to refer back to as I’m writing, as well as images that represent places in the novel, clothing, ideas, and bits of plot that are floating around in my head but not committed to paper or file yet. I have a mockup of a cover for the book, so that’s there, too. No doubt this board will be a mishmash of many things as the novel develops, but I can always pare it down later to better reflect the actual tale that emerges.

Do you use Pinterest in your writing life? If so, how?

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

By now you might already have seen the wonderful cover art for my upcoming novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun. If not, just look to the right of this post. :) Oh, you want to see it even bigger? Click here.

The artist is the talented Ashley Walters, whose lovely portfolio you can find at her site, www.ashleywalters.net. I think she did a fabulous job!

What I really wanted to talk about, though, was the very enjoyable experience I had being involved in the creation of this cover. At the outset, Tyche sent me a very detailed questionnaire to complete, so that I could offer input on my vision of what the cover could/should look like. Of course, there were no guarantees that my vision would guide the creation of the cover. No publisher in his or her right mind would offer that–what if I wanted something totally crazy and inappropriate? But they asked, and it was nice to have the opportunity to think about it and share my thoughts. I knew I wanted a spacescape of some sort–most of the book takes place in deep space, so it only made sense to me to have that represented. Glance right–you can see why I’m pleased. :) And the ship emerging from the wormhole? That’s based on my deckplans for the actual ship in the novel!

In fact though, I’m glad now that not all of my suggestions were followed: I was very apprehensive about having any characters on the cover at all. I’ve seen too many covers with badly-executed characters (drawn, painted, or rendered) that immediately turn me off from reading the book. I voiced those concerns. However, I also provided the requested details about what the characters looked like, so that if the decision was made to put the main character on the cover, she could look as much as possible like I had envisioned her.

Then I sat back and chewed my nails.

I needn’t have worried. Tyche, and the artist, knew what they were doing. As soon as I had my first look at the cover concept I knew that everything was going to be all right. The character–that’s her. That’s Luta, pretty much exactly as I had envisioned her. And I still had numerous opportunities along the way to lend my voice to the project–did I like the concept? The colors? Luta’s face? Her makeup?

The typeface came last, and again I was asked for input. Did I like it? (I loved it.) What about the colour outlining the letters? (We did some experimenting to see what looked best.)

All in all, I felt very involved in the process, and made to feel that my input was valuable. That I had a stake, and a say, in what my novel was going to look like. Which, I know, is definitely not always the way it goes for the author, but is surely the proper way to go about things.

P1040283So, some of you know that I set up a treadmill desk near the end of last year. I bought a secondhand treadmill in good condition, and my husband and I rigged up a prototype desk attachment with wood and duct tape so I could see if I was going to like it. I did. It took me a very short time to get used to typing while walking, and I used the desk a fair bit during NaNoWriMo in November. Not much in December, what with holidays and catching up after November. :)

Now we've ditched the prototype and made the "good" desktop from a piece of project pine. It's bolted into place and there to stay  (although it could be removed quite easily and the treadmill converted back to non-desk status in the future). I still need to put a few coats of finish oil on the wood, but it's done for all intents and purposes. (If you are interested in more details on the DIY, please let me know!)

I planned that starting in January, I would try to track my usage of the desk (and the various outcomes). January turned out not to be what I consider a "normal" month, since some serious illness in our family affected both the time I had to walk and the things I did while walking. Still, I kept my records, so I can share them now. Aren't you excited?

I track the time and distance I spend walking, average speed, the calories the treadmill tells me I burn (fwiw), and how I spent the time each session. Also, if I'm writing "new" words in a first draft, the number of words written. The breakdown for January is:

Time: 902 minutes (just over 15 hours)

Distance:
26.93 miles (Yes, I'm in Canada, I should be tracking kilometers; however, I haven't figured out how to change that setting on the treadmill yet. However, being of a certain age, both miles and kms make perfect sense to me, so it's all good.)

Calories burned: 5077 (Wow, that sounds like a LOT. It translates to having lost 3.6 pounds, so it IS a lot!)

Avg. speed: 1.78 mph (I try to keep up around 1.8-2.0, but depending on what I'm doing while walking, sometimes a bit slower is better.)graph-treadmill-january

Activities: For this, I made a chart! As you can see, I spent half my time on the treadmill in January--playing Torchlight II. I make no excuses for this. It was good stress relief at a very stressful time for our family. The editing was for the deadline I was working toward on the 15th of the month; I think all of it took place at the beginning of the month, and then I moved on to Torchlight in the second part of the month. I am hoping the breakdown for February will be different, because that will mean things have improved. :)

I have to say, I love my desk. Although it takes up a fair amount of space in my relatively tiny office, it's well worth it. Writing is by nature a sedentary pursuit, but it doesn't really have to be! (And yes, I wrote this while walking on the treadmill!)

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

books-CRW_5724Resolutions, goals, plans–whatever you like to call them, I do like to make at least one for the new year. My best goal planning usually comes in September, but that’s because my life still largely revolves around the school year. But, yes, January is a good planning time, too.


But I wasn’t sure what to say about that…how to get specific…seems like I’ve made lots of plans and goals (particularly to do with writing) before. Some pan out, some don’t, some get shoved aside by other things and some get forgotten. I didn’t really want to repeat myself, so I’ve been pondering the matter (when this rewrite I’m immersed in gives me time to ponder, which isn’t often).


And then I remembered. I do have one plan for this year. I’m going to publish a novel.


It might be via the traditional route, it might be a Kindle serial, it might be completely self-published, or it might be some weird hybrid that I can’t put a name on right now.


But it’s coming before the end of 2013…so stay tuned.

Because I Can

Dec. 30th, 2012 03:32 pm
sherrydramsey: (listening)
My website over at sherrydramsey.com is down today--it may have been down for a few days now as I haven't posted anything new since Christmas or popped 'round to check on it. So it's not due to anything I did, it's something on the hosting end. I've sent a message, which should produce a response "within 9 hours." Wow, that's some customer service.

But why is it that now that I KNOW it's down, I can't stop thinking about it? I wasn't going to post anything of huge importance...taking a break from the revisions I thought I might post about my five-star reads from 2012. That was it. I will likely do that here, later on, since now I've wasted my break time trying to get the site sorted. Grrr.

Anyway, I had to post here just because I CAN. But I don't feel all that much better...

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

typeCN0047Earlier this evening there was a tweet going around, linking to “8 Signs That You Were Meant to Be a Writer.” Of course I clicked over to read the eight signs. I like to see how predictable I am sometimes.

Sadly, I didn’t really like the list and explanations. It’s not that they were wrong, necessarily, but it was all sort of drippy and sappy and the explanations for each item were not really explanations at all. It talked about things like secret dreams (about writing) and excuses (for writing instead of doing other things) and yearning (to write). Which is not to say that these things are NOT signs that you were meant to be a writer. I’m not trashing the article. However, I believe the interpretations were slightly off the mark and I have re-interpreted them in what I think are more realistic terms here.*

1. Secret Dreams. Yes, writers have secret dreams. Sometimes they are even about writing. More often they are about quitting the day job, writing the next breakout novel, or even just getting something published so that your family and friends will stop calling you a “writer” in quotation marks and you can stop feeling guilty about all that money you spent on books, workshops, and computer software for writers.

2. Doubt. Absolutely. Doubt is always sticking its head in at the door and saying “Excuse me, loser, but I thought you should know that last paragraph you wrote is absolutely dreadful, that character is so wooden you should name him Pinocchio, and the plot is so full of holes that you could strain jelly through it.” Is doubt a sign that you’re meant to be a writer? Maybe. Because a lot of people who obviously aren’t meant to be writers don’t seem to have any doubt about it at all.

3. Excuses. I have to do laundry. I have to clean the house. I have to make cookies for the school bake sale. I have to exercise now. I have to scour the bathroom cupboards with an old toothbrush and then paint the barn. I have to redesign my website. I have to use social media for the next four hours to promote my writing career. Okay, excuses: check.

4. Inspiration. If you were meant to be a writer, you probably have a love/hate relationship with inspiration. You know that you can’t always wait for it, and that you must learn to work without it or create your own. But it does come to you at times. Usually when you’re driving on a four-lane highway, taking kids to a birthday party, having an emergency meeting with your boss, or giving birth.

5. Perfectionism. If you’re meant to be a writer, perfectionism will always occur in inverse proportion to the amount that is required in a given situation. You’ll think your sucky first draft is good enough and send it to an editor when it’s still so rough it will scratch the editor’s eyeballs. On the other hand, you’ll rewrite, edit, tweak and polish your novel so much in search of perfection that it will start to wear thin and you’ll never send it out.

6. Admiration. You’ll admire other writers, of course. You’ll admire their writing style, their relationship with their adoring fans, their ability to support themselves with their writing, and the wonderful way they “pay it forward” by taking fledgling writers (not you, of course) under their wing and helping THEM become successful, too. Oh, wait. I was thinking of jealousy.

7. Lacking. When you don’t write, you feel like something is missing. But sometimes when you do write, you also feel like something is missing, because it was something you were supposed to do (go to work? feed the kids?) during the time you spent writing. You could end up lacking a job, a family, or a place to live. Oops. Yes, lacking is often a large part of being a writer.

8.Yearning. Yearning to write. Didn’t we cover this in number 1? And possibly number 7 as well? Okay, yes, writers have yearnings. To write, and sometimes to not write. To find perfection, and sometimes to have someone come in and just fix the whole damn mess for you, slap your name on it and call it a day. To have an unlimited supply of chocolate and caffeine, a brilliant idea, and an all-expenses paid week-long writing retreat? Yearning. Oh yeah.

So…are you meant to be a writer? If you’ve read this far, it’s quite probable, because you’re likely supposed to be editing that novel right now…

*Sometimes I write things that I think are funny. If you don’t agree, you don’t have to tell me about it. Just move along, folks, move along.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

papercrumpleAs a writer, I’m very aware of the power of words. I hope to write things that harness and use that power, whether I want to make my readers laugh, cry, think, feel–I know that with the right words, I can make any of that happen. I work hard to find those right words, even when they seem unattainable.

I know that it takes hard work to arrive at the “right” words. We write, and then we write again, and then we write again, hoping that each draft brings us closer to the goal. Even then we rewrite, edit, tweak, and sometimes cut out large swathes of the words we had previously worked so hard on, that seemed so right at the time, and replace them with something that works better now. And maybe we finally arrive at the point where we think it’s “right,” and others agree, and we publish it, and there it is, all printed and official and real. Powerful. Persuasive. Permanent.

And then we read it later–maybe years later–and see how we could have made it better. Or we read it and realize that it’s dated, or we got something wrong, or things just didn’t turn out the way we had envisioned. This can be particularly true for science fiction writers. It doesn’t mean our words or the story they told were not good at the time. But if we were writing the same thing today, with today’s knowledge and understanding and context, we would write it differently. Verne’s From the Earth to The Moon might seem silly now because we know that we can’t travel to the moon by being shot from a cannon–and yet it is not completely without value. It remains fun to read as a product of its time, and it inspired Tsiolkovsky to develop his theory of spaceflight. It has been outdated in some ways, but still forms the foundation of what followed.

Sometimes we have to accept that our words–or words we love, or which have great importance for us–get it wrong, or become outdated, or lose some portion of their value. Maybe it’s a function of the time they were written in; maybe it’s a function of imperfect knowledge by the writer; maybe (and this is the most common, I think) the world just works differently now. Does it really make sense to think that all words written two hundred, three hundred, a thousand years ago can apply to the world today? How much has the world changed in your lifetime, or in your grandparents’ lifetimes?

Words that were written long ago, even very important words–although this is painful for many people to accept–can lose some of their relevance. Sometimes they simply no longer apply because society and social norms and values have changed. Sometimes they have been misinterpreted and the results don’t make sense in a contemporary context. Sometimes they have been perfectly well interpreted–but the results still don’t make sense because the world to which they are being applied is not the same world in which they were written. When, in fact, the world to which they are being applied could not even have been imagined by the writer or writers.

As a culture, we value the power of the written word, sometimes further and more blindly than we should. We think we have “rights” because a long time ago, someone wrote it down and others living at the time agreed with it. We think we know how to live in the world because someone wrote a set of rules that made sense at the time and with the state of knowledge and understanding at that time. This is true for political documents, and religious documents, and historical documents.

We cannot take it as a given that all these written words are infallible or immutable–when we do, we run the risk of allowing their power to become twisted and terrible. We can’t simply point to words and say “See? This says X and so that’s the way things are.” We must ask if we can reasonably expect to apply these writings to a world which would not even be recognizable to those who wrote them. It’s quite possible that some parts will stand the test of time. But from time to time they must be questioned and re-evaluated to see if they still hold true and are still relevant. Sometimes we need to think about what it really is we are trying to defend. We may need to look deeper into words to identify their true meaning, spirit, or intent. Sometimes words are not black and white.

And if they don’t bear up under this close and demanding examination, then maybe it’s time to rewrite them, edit them, or acknowledge that they have outlived their usefulness. They are only words, and they have only as much power as we choose to give them. We can always write more, that will serve us better.

Okay, it's December first! Time to go in search of some holiday spirit. This afternoon I'm going to visit some festively decorated homes as part of a local fundraiser, then head to my sister's house for her tree decorating party. Sounds like a promising start!

Obsession...

Sep. 27th, 2011 09:39 pm
sherrydramsey: (Moon)
I'm obsessed, the last few days.  I'm obsessed with coming up with a story idea for a themed anthology.  I have an invitation to submit, and although the deadline is fairly close, I'd really like to be able to send something in.  Unfortunately, I don't have a finished story that really fits the theme.

*If* I can generate an idea, I could definitely get the story written.  But right now, I'm floundering around in that morass of fragmented ideas, words, and images that might lead to a story, but doesn't yet.

All I can do is keep thinking and prodding the old brain.  There must be a story in there to fill the bill, if I can just dig it out.
I generally read a lot of books in the course of the summer. It’s not that I’m not as busy in the summer–far from it! It’s just that summer reading is…part of summer for me. So last night I wrote up my summer reading list.


I actually have a huge To Be Read list…or rather, not so much a list as a pile…not so much a pile as several piles…and scattered volumes, and ebooks queued and waiting on my Kobo and my phone, and things I want to read but haven’t yet acquired. So, yes, I have a lot of books waiting to be read. You know that t-shirt, the one that says, “So many books, so little time”? I should just be wearing that one all the time. (Because, you know, it works both ways for me, reading AND writing. But anyway…)

So I sat down and looked over all the myriad possibilities and came up with a pared-down list that says “summer reading” to me. I thought I’d share here. And if you’re on Goodreads, you can check up on me there to see how I’m doing.

(The list is in no particular order, just as I came across them.)

Murderous Magick by Michael A. Stackpole
Remake by Connie Willis
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… by Catherynne M. Valente
Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris
Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear (a book club book, if we get our book club active again–it’s next on our list, IIRC)
Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape
Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler (which I started reading last night, actually)
The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross
Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong
Barrington Street Blues by Anne Emory
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Spiral Hunt by Margaret Ronald
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
The Thackeray T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (eds.)

Heh, no, I have NO illusions that I will read ALL of these books over the summer. If I were taking the summer off from writing I could, but I’m certainly not doing that. But this is likely the list I’ll be choosing from. Unless I see something that catches my eye and I just dive into it. I’m like that, as a reader. The TBR pile is often ignored as I pick up something on a whim. But I like to have room for spontaneity in my reading.



Photo by xandert
I spent most of yesterday trying to finish up the first draft of a short story that really needed to be done.  I'm discovering, though, that I need frequent breaks when I'm spending long days at the writing mill.  I've never really noticed this during my NaNoWriMo sprints, I suppose because I can generally crank out my daily words in one or two sessions.  But now that I've moved to much longer days of concentrated writing time, I've found a difference.

Yesterday I thought I'd take a  break from one kind of creativity by switching to another, but I needed to set some boundaries so that I wouldn't get swept away and forget to go back to the writing.  Therefore I made it a time challenge, too.  I decided I would open up Photoshop and give myself twenty minutes to create a desktop wallpaper.  One other rule:  I had to work with only the brush sets I happened to have open, plus one other I could choose.

It was fun and provided a good break.  The result isn't terribly fancy, but I like it and it's on my desktop now.  Here it is:


I titled it "Sister Moon."

For Christmas, hubby gave me a new packet of artist trading cards.  I think I might start a few of those to work on when I take a timed break, too.  The switch from one creative endeavour to another seems to have been better for me than using the time on something more mundane.

Happenings

Apr. 22nd, 2011 08:29 pm
sherrydramsey: (fortune)
I'm putting this lucky ladybug I drew as my userpic for this post, because I am feeling very fortunate right now.  A number of good things have happened lately, not all of which I can talk about in detail, but I can throw out some hints. :)

Well, as to the first one, I can talk about it freely--I have a short story collection scheduled to come out later this year.  It will consist of many of my previously-published short stories and probably one new one.  My editors and I are working on the TOC now, and cover art is pretty much done.  It's exciting!  It'll be available in print and ebook formats.

I also have a publisher interested in one of my novels--provided I can make satisfactory revisions.  That's a somewhat nerve-wracking proposition, but I do have some ideas and will be diving into the project in the next day or so, once I clear a few more items off my list. I have a couple of months to make the changes, which should be do-able.  We have a vacation in there but I'll work around it.  This is also, of course, hugely exciting, but I am trying not to get too worked up over it since nothing's certain until those revisions are done and meet with approval.  Of course I can let myself enjoy the fact that they liked the story enough to ask for revisions. :)

The third item was an invitation that I should really keep quiet about for now.  But it's very nice.

Will share more details on all of this as I can.  For now--feeling lucky indeed!
Earlier today I browsed through this photo collection of famous authors and their typewriters. If you haven’t seen it, take a moment to do so. Go ahead, I’ll wait until you get back.

straightens up desk for a few moments

Oh, you’re back? Cool photos, aren’t they? But you know what struck me most about them, apart from their coolness? The almost total lack of clutter around these authors as they wrote.

Yes, there were a few exceptions, but if you go back you’ll notice that these were, of the bunch, more recent photos. In most of them, it was just the author, the typewriter, and one or two other items like paper, a book or two, or maybe an ashtray.

Now, yes, it’s entirely possible that in the brief time before the photo was taken, there was a mad rush of tidying, of sweeping half-empty gin bottles and wineglasses out of sight, of doctoring up the scene to look more professional and “author-ish.” But still, as I look around my desk, I notice all the things that would not have to be tidied away: computer mouse, gadget dock, portable phone, USB drives, CDs, lists of website references, etc. I have approximately 30 pens on my desk, a stack of sticky notes (used and blank), notepads, file folders, timesheets, a mug warmer, and a handful of writing “totems.” In the computer background I’m running Twitter, a browser with a research or dictionary site, and an IM/chat client. Maybe I’m just messier and more cluttered than most people–but somehow I don’t think so.

Not that I want to trade my computer and go back to using a typewriter. Been there, done that, no thanks. Not that I want my writing space to be necessarily as sterile and empty as that in many of the photos. But still–is there something to be said for fewer distractions, fewer projects, fewer deadlines? Would less visual clutter lead to less mental clutter, and a clearer vision of the work in progress?

It’s ironic that many writers probably have made something of a return to the days pictured in this photo collection, as their workspace becomes whatever spot they plunk down their laptop, tablet, or gadget-of-the-week. However, in this connected world, I think it’s probably a rare moment when it’s really stripped down to the writer, the device, and the words. I wonder which group, the ones in the photos, or those of us working today, are really working smarter?

While I still have two days left to log writing time for this week, they will be the weekend, so I think it's highly unlikely that I will get to my goal hours this time around.  Maybe it serves me right for getting cocky about how well last week went (614 minutes) and upping my goal by half an hour. When I think about it, though, it was mostly *Rest Of My Life issues that kept me from writing.

I'm really not sure what I can do about that except try to plan better (the things I CAN plan) and try to find catch-up time when the planning doesn't work.

~.~.~

In other news, I came to a huge and sad realization last night.  I need to get rid of some books.

I've been buying books since I was in university and the city offered a variety of used book stores, of which I would make the rounds almost every weekend.  The book acquisition habit has continued over the years, and although I do get more titles from the library these days (especially when trying an author for the first time) I still like to buy books.  Part of me would like to count the number of books in the house--and part of me is afraid to do that.

However, when I was doing some pre-housecleaning housecleaning in the bedroom last week, I realized that I have at least 50+ books in that room alone waiting to be read or in various stages of being read.  And when I do read them--I have nowhere to put them if I want to move new to-be-read books into that space.  Every bookshelf in the house is already packed or over-packed.  I don't see us adding a new room to the house just to hold books.  Sooooo...the only conclusion is that I have to get rid of some.  And while we're planning a Great Purge of the house this spring, the idea of sorting through the books and moving some them out of here is more daunting than all the rest of the things that I know need to be done.

*Sigh*  I wonder if I could convince my husband to add on that extra room...

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